How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?
It’s an old joke: “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Teachers use it inspirationally, sometimes derisively, to motivate students. The punchline is often omitted because everyone knows the answer.
Before the internet made top listings on Spotify a thing, Carnegie Hall was it. If you made it there, you made it. Period.
The punchline is often omitted because everyone knows the answer.
Receiving an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall became the reason you woke up in the morning, the reason you tried to get into the best schools — often the one right up the street.
Moments of pride
The mug in the picture above is a souvenir from my last trip to New York. My daughter was young, too young to know what it meant, but gifted, nonetheless. She received the golden ticket, an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Two months later, she and her fellow performers found themselves surrounded by skyscrapers they had only seen in movies, having much difficulty navigating the busy streets of Manhattan — desert creatures don’t get around in concrete jungles, it would seem.
She received the golden ticket, an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall.
They asked someone: “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” After receiving the usual answer, they responded, as teenagers are wont to do, with a snarky, “did that; now, where do I go?”
That evening, when I stood in the hall, ticket in hand, and heard that answer, I chuckled, not realizing the significance of her response.
You’ve arrived; now what?
Every skill or career choice comes with certain prerequisites that must be fulfilled before moving onto the next step. Too often, we set goals only for that initial step, one that isn’t quite at the end of our journey but at the point where success begins.
- A black belt
- Promotion to leadership
- Landing a job
- Publishing a book
- Finding someone to spend the rest of our lives with
The accomplishment of these things is a lot like performing at Carnegie Hall. You’ve arrived; now what? Or, to use my daughter’s answer: “done that; now, where do I go?”
Stepping on the well-worn stage at Carnegie Hall is the defining moment that tells the world, “look at me; I’m worthy.” Stepping off of that stage is where most people lose their drive.
What comes after performing on one of the most prestigious stages in the world? How do you follow that up?
Going somewhere, anywhere
One of my daughter’s greatest fears when thinking about making a career in music is that she may end up as a music teacher.
That’s not a knock against her teachers, whom she loves dearly, but fear of lacking choices if things don’t work out.
Why would things not work out?
Training to get to Carnegie Hall takes years. In the chase of that target, we lose focus on what lies beyond it. We fail to set new goals, to look at where this newfound success could take us.
Without a destination to strive for, we fail to move at all. When you stay in the same place, resting on your laurels for having been invited to a grand stage, your options start to dry up.
All success is difficult
Whatever comes after Carnegie Hall is going to be as hard as getting there in the first place.
It’s often the fear of what it will take to succeed that freezes you in place. It was so hard getting to Carnegie Hall — you never want to work that hard for anything ever again. But you have to.
Life goes on for a reason. For anyone motivated enough to get to the grandest stages in life, part of that reason will be new accomplishments. Maybe it’s in the field you worked so hard to achieve in, or perhaps it’s in a new field altogether. Either way, it’s always time to keep your focus on the next thing, to keep reaching for further success.
You never want to work that hard for anything ever again.
Before you walk on that stage, have some idea of what you will do when you step off of it. You don’t need a full goals program, just an idea to get you going when the sun rises the next morning.
Will it be difficult? Yes, it will. That’s what makes it worthwhile. But you’ve done it before. You know how to get to Carnegie Hall, and you can do it again.
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